20 Week Abortion Ban Hurts Women

By Claire, Communications Intern

The last few months have seen numerous limits on abortion in the US, from Planned Parenthood defunding to mandatory waiting periods to outright bans after certain weeks.  The after-20-week bans, which have passed in 6 states, are not only infringing on women’s reproductive freedom but infringing on the emotional and psychological well-being of women who want to become mothers.

Two of the first victims of Nebraska’s invasive abortion ban after 20 weeks are Danielle and Robb Deaver .  Mrs. Deaver, a registered nurse, was pregnant with a child she and her husband wanted.  Sadly, after 22 weeks her water broke and the fetus stopped developing.  The fetus was, therefore, no longer viable and would be born dead or dying.  Because of these complications, she also faced a serious threat of infection.  The Deavers decided they would rather induce labor than wait to give birth to a dying fetus.  However, induced labor by such definition, was an abortion.  The doctors and hospital lawyers decided the procedure would be illegal under the new law, despite the lack of fetus viability.

After 10 days of waiting, Mrs. Deaver went into labor naturally.  The baby lived 15 minutes and Mrs. Deaver had to be treated with antibiotics for infection.  This has been an incredibly infuriating ordeal for Mrs. Deaver who wanted nothing more than to privately and quietly end this tragic pregnancy on her own terms with her doctor and family.

Of the 1.21 million abortions performed every year in America, only 18,000 happen after 20 weeks.  A majority of these procedures are done due to medical emergencies according to the Guttmacher Institute .  The Nebraska law only offers exceptions for “serious physical impairment of major bodily function” of the mother or to avoid the death of the fetus.  Most fetuses are only viable outside the mother’s womb as early as 24 weeks, and normally such decisions of viability are made on a case-by-case decision by the doctor present.  Therefore, this law is impeding the original federal law, Roe v. Wade, that states abortion is allowed until viability.  There are no exception for rape, incest or for if the fetus is no longer viable.  There are no exceptions for women like Mrs. Deaver who faced unnecessary emotional trauma.

The bans came into effect after a rush of anti-choice propaganda aimed at exposing “fetal pain.”  Proponents of this propaganda claim that fetuses can feel pain after a certain point in development, after 20 weeks, and therefore abortion after 20 weeks is a form of murder and should be banned.  A study  by the Royal College of Obstetrician and Gynecologists states that most neuroscientists believe that pain cannot be felt before 24 weeks.  Prior to 24 weeks, the cerebral cortex in the developing brain has not developed and thus the fetus cannot feel pain as we understand it.  The observations of fetal response to needles, most often used to “prove” fetal pain are not indicative of “pain awareness” and are simply biological reflexes.

It is unfortunate that women like Danielle Deaver had to go through this ordeal when a better solution should have been available.  It is unfortunate that anti-choice proponents of the this law assume pro-choice bias instead of seeing the biological evidence of the Royal College and researchers like Dr. Grimes.  We can only hope that the pro-choice organizations of Nebraska and the other 5 states will be able to make a winnable case against this unconstitutional law.  Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Alabama, and yesterday Ohio,  have followed Nebraska and earned themselves a spot on the women’s health board of shame.


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